INSEAD Application Essay Tips, 2022-2023
Get ready to write! With three motivational essays (plus a fourth optional one) and four short-answer questions (plus a fifth optional one), INSEAD definitely demands that you put in the time to prove your interest in the program. Plus, you’ll need to record four short videos for the video component of the school’s application. So give yourself plenty of time to think about the stories you want to tell and the messages you want to convey, and then make a plan so you can be sure to convey them all.
Job Description 1: Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (200 words maximum)
Job Description 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company instead of going to business school? (200 words maximum)
Job Description 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words maximum)
Job Description 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)
INSEAD doesn’t give you a lot of words with which to provide really detailed answers here, so you will need to keep your responses direct and succinct. Focus on providing exactly what the school is asking for with each question. For the first one, you need to describe multiple elements of your current job or most recent one—the kind of work, primary responsibilities, employees, budget, and so on—so take care to cover them all and not overlook any. The second prompt is pretty plain. Simply explain whether you would like (or expect) to continue moving up in your company along the path you’re already on or whether you would prefer to make a change of some kind and pursue a different role. In either case, offer a simple description of what the next position would be and what responsibilities you would then have.
Your answer to the third question will be the longest, though 300 words is still not a lot. Describe the different phases of your career thus far and don’t forget to explain “the rationale behind your choices” along the way. INSEAD wants to know what has motivated you professionally. For the fourth prompt, the school doesn’t want you to just share your goals but also tie them specifically to INSEAD. Be ready to point out whichever courses, clubs, experiences, and other offerings you believe will help prepare you to reach your goals.
Optional Job Essay: If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than 2 months before the programme starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the programme.
INSEAD essentially wants to know that you are genuinely intellectually curious and driven, and that if given a few months of free rein, you will make good use of that time versus taking an extended vacation. This could include taking courses, getting more involved in your community, engaging in a philanthropic venture, or pursuing a personal or self-improvement goal. Spell out for the admissions committee what you see yourself doing and why. Show the school you are ambitious, and explain what you expect to take away from the experience(s) you intend to pursue.
Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary (maximum 500 words).
Everyone’s answer to this question will (and should) be very different and personal, which makes this a good opportunity for you to stand out to the admissions committee. Focus on the parts of your personality and character that are deeply authentic and most indicative of who you are and how you live. What would make you distinctive and unique from the rest of your incoming class? Keep in mind INSEAD’s mission statement: “We bring together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society.” INSEAD really values diversity and an international mind-set, so this is also a good place to discuss these aspects of your life. Don’t forget to also address what you feel is your most significant weakness, and in all cases, be completely honest. Candor regarding a shortcoming shows self-awareness. Admissions committees can easily spot when an applicant is trying to portray themselves as someone they think the school “wants” them to be or attempting to spin a strength as a weakness. And rather than trying to fit too much information into your 500-word response, focus on just two or three primary characteristics, supported by context via anecdotes or examples.
Motivation Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned (maximum 400 words).
You will need to cover a lot of ground here in just 400 words, so strive to be as straightforward and clear as possible so you can respond to all the different facets of this prompt. You must describe a high point in your life, explain the reason it is so significant to you, share how the incident has influenced your interactions with those around you, and note your greatest takeaway from the experience. Then you need to do the same with respect to a low point in your life. Give this prompt serious and sufficient thought so you can identify the two examples that are most meaningful for you and changed you in some way. Show the admissions committee that you are capable of serious introspection and growth from both your achievements and your defeats.
Motivation Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (maximum 300 words)
This is another opportunity to demonstrate your individuality for INSEAD and reveal how you could contribute to a diverse incoming class. How you choose or prefer to spend your time outside of work—and what you feel you gain from these activities—will help the admissions committee better understand the other important values and skills you possess beyond what your resume, transcripts, and test scores can convey. And having students who represent a wide range of interests means a more enriching and rewarding MBA experience for all involved. So simply share your passions and the reasons they resonate with you to give the school evidence of your commitment and motivations.
Optional Motivation Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (maximum 300 words)
The optional essay should always be used judiciously, and considering how many opportunities INSEAD already gives you to share your stories and experiences, be especially thoughtful about whether you really need to submit yet another essay at this point. This is not an opportunity to squeeze in an additional story you think is interesting but that will not actually add to the admissions committee’s knowledge or understanding of you in any meaningful way. So, you should probably provide this optional essay only if you feel the need to explain a confusing or problematic issue in your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, a gap in your work experience, a disciplinary issue, or why your direct supervisor is not your direct recommender. And in any case, there’s no need to make your response any longer than necessary—just communicate the critical information.
That said, INSEAD does leave the door open to discuss something that is not a problem, so you have a bit of leeway to share anything you think might be pivotal or particularly compelling. If you have something truly unique to share that you believe would make you stand out or that the admissions committee absolutely needs to know to be able to evaluate you fully and fairly, then this is your chance. But remember that submitting an additional essay means you are asking the admissions committee to do extra work, so make sure that time is warranted and keep your submission as brief as possible.
INSEAD also requires that you complete a four-question video interview within 48 hours of submitting your application. You can record your response to each question as many times as you want, and you can do the questions in separate sessions rather than one right after the other, if you prefer. These videos are not meant to be a test, so don’t stress about them. They’re just to give the admissions committee a more complete view of who you are as an individual—your style, your personality, your individuality, and maybe, to an extent, your language skills, given the school’s international focus. Your goal here is just to be yourself and to respond and act as naturally and authentically as possible. Relax, smile, and be confident!
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into INSEAD, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings, such as the INSEAD capstone course, the Women in Business Club, and the annual DASH event.